LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 12: Periodical Press

Vol. I. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Introductory
Ch. 2: Childhood
Ch. 3: Boyhood
Ch. 4: London
Ch. 5: Companions
Ch. 6: The Cypher
Ch. 7: Edinburgh
Ch. 8: Edinburgh
Ch. 9: Excursion
Ch. 10: Naval Services
Ch. 11: Periodical Press
‣ Ch. 12: Periodical Press
Ch. 13: Past Times
Ch. 14: Past Times
Ch. 15: Literary
Ch. 16: War & Jubilees
Ch. 17: The Criminal
Ch. 18: Mr. Perceval
Ch. 19: Poets
Ch. 20: The Sun
Ch. 21: Sun Anecdotes
Ch. 22: Paris in 1814
Ch. 23: Paris in 1814
Ch. 24: Byron
Vol. I. Appendices
Scott Anecdote
Burns Anecdote
Life of Thomson
John Stuart Jerdan
Scottish Lawyers
Sleepless Woman
Canning Anecdote
Southey in The Sun
Hood’s Lamia
Murder of Perceval
Vol. II. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary
Ch. 2: Mr. Canning
Ch. 3: The Sun
Ch. 4: Amusements
Ch. 5: Misfortune
Ch. 6: Shreds & Patches
Ch. 7: A Character
Ch. 8: Varieties
Ch. 9: Ingratitude
Ch. 10: Robert Burns
Ch. 11: Canning
Ch. 12: Litigation
Ch. 13: The Sun
Ch. 14: Literary Gazette
Ch. 15: Literary Gazette
Ch. 16: John Trotter
Ch. 17: Contributors
Ch. 18: Poets
Ch 19: Peter Pindar
Ch 20: Lord Munster
Ch 21: My Writings
Vol. II. Appendices
The Satirist.
Authors and Artists.
The Treasury
Morning Chronicle
Chevalier Taylor
Foreign Journals
Vol. III. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary Pursuits
Ch. 2: Literary Labour
Ch. 3: Poetry
Ch. 4: Coleridge
Ch 5: Criticisms
Ch. 6: Wm Gifford
Ch. 7: W. H. Pyne
Ch. 8: Bernard Barton
Ch. 9: Insanity
Ch. 10: The R.S.L.
Ch. 11: The R.S.L.
Ch. 12: L.E.L.
Ch. 13: L.E.L.
Ch. 14: The Past
Ch. 15: Literati
Ch. 16: A. Conway
Ch. 17: Wellesleys
Ch. 18: Literary Gazette
Ch. 19: James Perry
Ch. 20: Personal Affairs
Vol. III. Appendices
Literary Poverty
Ismael Fitzadam
Mr. Tompkisson
Mrs. Hemans
A New Review
Debrett’s Peerage
Procter’s Poems
Poems by Others
Poems by Jerdan
Vol. IV. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Critical Glances
Ch. 2: Personal Notes
Ch. 3: Fresh Start
Ch. 4: Thomas Hunt
Ch. 5: On Life
Ch. 6: Periodical Press
Ch. 7: Quarterly Review
Ch. 8: My Own Life
Ch. 9: Mr. Canning
Ch. 10: Anecdotes
Ch. 11: Bulwer-Lytton
Ch. 12: G. P. R. James
Ch. 13: Finance
Ch. 14: Private Life
Ch. 15: Learned Societies
Ch. 16: British Association
Ch. 17: Literary Characters
Ch. 18: Literary List
Ch. 19: Club Law
Ch. 20: Conclusion
Vol. IV. Appendix
Gerald Griffin
W. H. Ainsworth
James Weddell
The Last Bottle
N. T. Carrington
The Literary Fund
Letter from L.E.L.
Geographical Society
Baby, a Memoir
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Such are our guides * * * *
With clews like these we tread the maze of state,
These oracles explore, to learn our fate;
Pleased with the guides who can so well deceive,
Who cannot lie so fast as we believe.—Crabbe.

The life of a reporter is somewhat of an anomalous one; his tasks require considerable skill and judgment to execute them neatly and properly. His fidelity must he assured, for his responsibility is great, and the character of the journal to which he belongs depends upon his truth, and the public intelligence is fed or misled by his representations. The class ought to have taken a higher stand in literature and general estimation than they appear to have done; one prominent cause of which is probably to be found in the nature of their employment. They are (not so much as they were) nightbirds; but yet are, to a certain extent, debarred from the social relations and pursuits of day. At first the occupation is exciting, and always improving, and I know no better preparatory school for the bar, or almost any description of public life, than the training of a session or two in parliamentary drudgery. It is like reviewing, and by forcing the mind to consider many interesting and important questions, it creates a sort of universality of talent, not always superficial but always ready; this is a great
advantage, and we have only to look around us for men who have attained high celebrity and station, which may be clearly traced to this kind of schooling.

In a little time, however, the sameness of the work, notwithstanding its varieties, becomes exceedingly unsatisfying and irksome. Occasionally a brilliant affair may light up the imagination, but the tedium of a long continuance of mediocrity to deal with is wearisome beyond endurance. To divert this, and in their nocturnal transitions between the house and the printing-office, or at the close of the business, it is most natural for the reporter to seek some relaxation and amusement, and this induces a habit of tavern recreations, entertaining clubs, and whimsical debating societies, to pass the intermittent hour, till all is over. In the olden times inebriety, or rather indulgences closely approaching it, was almost the rule; now, we believe it to be the rare exception: for parliament, with its afternoon meetings, and watchman-like call of “past twelve o’clock,” to wind up proceedings, does not demand such heavy sacrifices from those who are its organs to the wide world.

Our Aurorean establishment went on very well for a while, but as the great morning paper recently observed, “If you want anything spoilt or ruined, you cannot do better than confide it to the management of a committee.” The truth was exemplified in the present case, and proof afforded of what I have always seen since that period, namely, that there must be a despotic power at the head of a periodical publication, or it must fall to pieces. Now our rulers of the hotel dynasties, though intelligent and sensible men, were neither literary nor conversant with journalism; thus under any circumstances their interference would have been injurious, but it was rendered still more
fatal by their differences in political opinion, and two or three of the number setting up to write “Leaders” themselves. The clashing and want of ensemble was speedily obvious and detrimental; our readers became perfect weathercocks, and could not reconcile themselves to themselves from day to day. They wished, of course, to be led, as all well-informed citizens are, by their newspaper; and they would not blow hot and cold in the manner prescribed for all the coffee-room politicians in London. In the interior, the hubbub and confusion of the republic of letters was meanwhile exceedingly amusing to the looker-on; we were of all parties and shades of opinion; the proprietor of the King’s Head was an ultra-tory, and swore by
George the Third as the best of sovereigns,—the Crown Hotel was very loyal but more moderate,—the Bell Inn would give a strong pull for the Church,—whilst the Cross-Keys was infected with Romish predilections. The Cockpit was warlike, the Olive Tree pacific, the Royal Oak patriotic, the Rummer democratic, the Hole in the Wall seditious. Many a dolorous pull at the porter-pot and sapientious declination of his head had the perplexed and bemused editor, before he could effect any tolerable compromise of contradictions for the morning’s issue: at the best, the sheet appeared full of signs and wonders.

Public vacillation and internal discords soon produced their inevitable effects. Aurora, “the pride of the day,” passed her meridian, and began to get low in the horizon. Her gold-scattering turned out to be rather an artistic fancy in painting her, than a substantial reality. I had succeeded to the uneasy post of editor on the exhaustion of the pot and pipe, but vain were my efforts, and the darkness of night overtook the bright divinity of the morning.

Another of my connexions with the press was not of long
continuance. The “
Pilot” evening newspaper was established in January, 1807, by Mr. E. Samuel, a friend to the celebrated Cowslip, Mrs. Wells. He had been Auditor to the Nabob of Oude, and been commissioned to England expressly for the purpose of vindicating the Nabob’s cause. Conjoined with him were Dr. Maclean, the sturdy anti-contagionist, and Mr. David Walker; and Mr., afterwards Sir Herbert, Compton, who had come to London for the requisite period of eating dinners in order to be called to the bar, as he had previously only practised as an attorney in India. Honourably distinguished, on his final return home he retired into the amenities of private life, and died about two years ago, sincerely lamented by a numerous circle of friends. In the spring of 1808, I became his co-adjutor for a season, and found in the “Pilot” a great contrast to the “Aurora.” All the parties were educated and gentlemanly, and the outside intercourse was as pleasant as that within. Compton, who had chambers in Brick Court, Temple, wrote some humorous articles under a “Sir Fretful” soubriquet, and Mr. Henry Ireland, and Mr. Cyrus Reding, the latter especially, contributed light miscellaneous and other able matter to the columns of the “Pilot,” as he has since done as largely as any individual of the age to several of the most popular periodicals. Mr. Walker did a good deal of the “look-about” work, and not much with the pen, which was chiefly wielded by Mr. Samuel. Independently of the Oude support, the “Pilot” was warmly in the interest of the Horse-Guards, and had prime information from that quarter; and some of the officers used to meet at very agreeable dinner parties with the civil officials of the publication.

The newspapers, it may be remembered, had rather an uneasy time of it at this period. Sir Vicary, or, as Queen
Caroline called him, Sir Vinegar Gibbs, filed about forty ex-officio informations within two years, and the shaft of persecution, like the sword of Damocles, hung over the heads of the whole fraternity. A brief retrospect of the status quo, reviving names of much familiar note at the time, and talents which had great influence on the community, but hardly one, if one, surviving, may not be devoid of interest.

Belonging to the evening, were the “Star,” edited by the scientific Tilloch, the sweetly-poetic Scotchman, Mayne, and Turnbull, an active and clever writer, married to one of the Tweeddale kindred.

At the flourishing “Courier” were Daniel Stuart, who (it was said, originally a tailor) amassed wealth, was high-sheriff of Oxfordshire, and died not long ago in great respect, at a good old age. Also Mr. Street, the acting and active editor, who, with Shakspeare and Burke ever ready at his finger ends for apt quotation, for years after conducted the paper with great spirit, was much in the confidence of government, and led as sumptuous and gay a life, as his partner’s was the opposite, decorous and economic. Alas, for the contrast! At last the changes of times shattered Street’s fortunes, and he ultimately died in poverty: yet what a career was his. The noble, the eminent, the witty, aye, and the wise, the most distinguished characters of all ranks and professions, feasted at his plenteous board, and yet, in the end, suffered the stricken man to slink into the obscurity of the country, and the date or place of his death to be unknown, even to those his former bounty fed. His extravagance might be a vice (for prudence truly tells that sunshine will not last for ever), but it is not for the “jolly companions” who revelled in its enjoyment, to turn with unfeeling apathy, and often censure, from the havoc they
have helped to make.
Sir J. Macintosh, Stuart’s brotherin-law (I think), wrote in the “Courier.”

The “Sun,” of which I was nearly four years editor, at a later date (1812-16), had been established through the agency of George Rose, Charles Long, and other friends of Pitt, to support his measures. Its first editor was Mr. Heriot, promoted to a good appointment in the West Indies, and succeeded by Mr. Robert Clark, for many years the much esteemed printer and publisher of the Government Gazette. He had for a colleague the well known Mr. John Taylor, Monsieur Tonson, of whom I shall have more to say when he and I became unfortunately linked together; and was often indebted for contributions to Mr. Fladgate, solicitor, connected with the paper, and one who said as good things as I ever heard, not excepting those of Sydney Smith or Theodore Hook.

Of the “Globe and Traveller” I remember nothing, except that Mr. Edward Quin, a great city and common council oracle, was connected with it.

Mr. White edited the very libellous “Independent Whig.”

Mr. Peter Stuart, brother to Daniel, was the Magnus Apollo of the “Oracle” morning journal, which did not enjoy a very savoury reputation.

Mr. Perry was of the “Chronicle,” and with it, in his reign, some young aspirants who have since risen to great fame, first tried their ’prentice hands. Lord Chief Justice Campbell, the late Serjeant Spankie, and others may be mentioned.

Mr. Byrne occupied the “Post,” with a staff of high consideration. Dr. Fleming, an elegant scholar; Fitzgerald and Hogan, two well-educated Irish gentlemen; Donovan, another capital Hibernian character, and Walter Henry Watts, long the proud boast of their order in the reporters’
gallery—of whom also I shall have more to say—were conspicuous examples.

At the “Herald,” I only to call to memory a gentlemanlike person, Mr. McDonnel; and the “Times” kept the secret of its editing so well, that Mr. Walter, or his representative Mr. Lawson, had to bear the brunt of all hostilities; and the abilities of Barnes, Murray, &c, &c, had either not been developed, or were not bruited beyond the mysterious precincts of Printing House Square.

There was also the “Englishman;” and about this epoch, the “Day,” or “New Times,” Dr. Stoddart; a bitter opponent of the “Times,” which christened him Dr. Slop; but nevertheless rejoiced on his removal to Malta, in a responsible official appointment.

There was also the “Statesman,” a democratic journal; and the “Globe,” before noted, which, though political, directed its intelligence in great measure to the Mercantile world; as did the “Ledger” to the Shipping interests.

From this enumeration readers will gather, that in journalism, as in the affairs of man, there is a tide; and that like man, after their allotted period of existence, they cease to be. They have also, like man, their seven ages; and their characters as years run on, varying as much as those of the most mutable of human beings.

To return for a minute to the “Pilot.” Compton, after being called to the bar, left for India. Samuel went out as Chief-Justice to Guiana, and died there. The Fitzgerald of the “Post,” already mentioned, became editor, and I occupied his position on the “Post.” He, too, was promoted to Sierra Leone, as Chief-Justice, and lived an unusual number of years; whilst his old literary compatriot, Hogan, died shortly after his arrival, with a lucrative legal appointment.


The printer of the “Pilot” I can still see, so oddly do circumstances fix remembrances. His name was Taylor; he lived very frugally, and was master of his duty; and he never got drunk but once a week, viz., on the Saturday night. As Providence, they say, takes care of drunken men and fools, who cannot take care of themselves, Taylor got a prize of the sixteenth of a 20,000l. ticket in the lottery; but it made no difference to him—he lived as low, and got quite as drunk every Saturday as before; he was not spoiled by his good fortune!

But one of the most “noticeable” visitors and inmates at the “Pilot” office was Mr. Paull, a dapper little fellow, touched with the small-pox, and dressed in blue coat and leather inexpressibles, the fashionable costume of the day; and a very strange and unbecoming one, either on short, fat, protuberant bodies, or on tall, lank, gaunt, skeleton-like forms, such as William Pitt’s. Paull was not rich, but, I rather think, participated in some of the native Indian funds. His duel with Burdett, in Coombe Wood, made a great noise at the time; and I have reason to believe that the general opinion was right, and that Burdett deceived him. Be that as it may, the unhappy being, the year after, destroyed himself, having betrayed no symptoms of derangement only a day or two before.